The upper house of Japan's parliament passed The Bill Promoting Implementation of Specified Integrated Resort Areas, colloquially known as the 'Casino Bill', on Thursday.
Gambling law expert Diane Mullenex of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said earlier this week that the Casino Bill would "help Japan to compete as a new gambling tourism destination in Asia to rival Macau".
Casinos are currently banned in Japan, and it is generally a criminal offence to gamble or to operate or offer gambling services, although some gambling activities are permitted under Japanese law, such as horse race betting and gambling on pachinko, an arcade machine game with similarities to pinball.
The new Bill will allow for casinos to be established within designated resorts that would feature other facilities, such as hotels and other centres of recreation or exhibition. The passage of the Bill does not legalise casinos immediately. The Bill provides the overarching framework for further legislation to take forward the development of new resorts where casinos can be set up.
Mullenex said: "There is a large untapped potential for casino operators to exploit in Japan, the world's fourth largest economy. This is shown by the thriving illegal gambling scene in Japan, studies which have recorded the appetite for pachinko among Japanese consumers, and the fact that turnover generated in the limited sectors of gambling permitted under Japanese law tends to rank favourably compared to that generated in other parts of the world in those sectors."
"The loosening of restrictions on gambling in Japan through the enactment of the Bill would therefore provide a great opportunity for international operators to enter the Japanese market," she said.